Sister, Sister: Season 1
People have always had a certain fascination with twins. Most human beings find a comfort in being unique; to know that they are the only one of ‘you’ that has ever or would exist. With identical twins it must be like having a mirror constantly in front of you. From a genetic standpoint they are great for research. There is no other way short of human cloning to have people with the same genetic background. One perennial question that has been investigated with the help of twins is whether nature or nurture is most important in shaping just who we are. The main focus of this kind of research typically centers on twins who through various circumstances were separated shortly after birth. Having two genetically identical human begins with different backgrounds is a great experimental situation. There have been numerous reports of such separated twins growing up only to meet decades later. Often these reports highlight how many similarities in taste, jobs and even spouses there are then they are reunited. Twins have popped up now and again in television shows. Usually it is a dual role played by the same person such as mother of all TV twin shows; ’The Patty Duke Show’. One show actually found a real set of identical twins to play the role, ‘Sister, Sister’. The series started out on ABC and then moved to the WB after its first year. That initial season is now available on DVD through CBS Paramount. This is great fun for the whole family. It is pleasant with a good dollop of slapstick that will keep everybody laughing. I have to admit that in the afternoon I do watch re-runs of it even though my daughter is now and adult; it is that much fun. One thing that parents will appreciate; even though this is a tween oriented series the adults are not portrayed as clueless idiots. The girls love and respect their parents and often some sort of lesson is blended into the story. You really can’t ask for something better to watch as a family so now that it is on DVD makes it a part of your home collection.
The series centers on Tia Landry (Tia Mowry) and Tamera Campbell (Tamera Mowry). In the first episode each of the girls thinks she is the only child in a one parent household. Tia’s adopted mother is Lisa (Jackée Harry) who works when she can as a seamstress. Lisa is somewhat flighty, carefree and just a bit lusty. She goes through life trying to find fun in every situation. Tia, on the other hand is a studious girl concerned with her studies and getting ahead. She is used to being the top of her class. Tamera was adopted by Ray Campbell (Tim Reid) who owns a successful limousine service. He is uptight and precise. He is the epitome of responsibility. His daughter Tamera is a free spirit who wants to have fun in life. One day while shopping at the mall the girls and their parents go into the same clothing store. They happen to be dressed the same way which confounds the lamentable clerk trying to help them out. An argument breaks out and the parents and girls meet for the first time. They are amazed that they are actually twins meeting for the first time in their lives. When Lisa loses her apartment Ray is convinced by the girls to let Lisa and Tia move in with them. While both of the girls loves her parent each is also better suited to get along with the other adult in the new blended household. Every sit-com needs an annoying neighbor and this show had one; Roger (Marques Houston). At first he was infatuated with Tamara since he was used to living next door to her. When Tia showed up the boy was in heaven. When he made an advance to one girl that was inevitably rebuffed he could just move on to be rejected by the twin. Usually the girls would get feed up with him and say in unison ‘Go Home Roger’.
This first season relied on the settling in process to drive most of the story for the episodes. Tia and Tamara had to discover the similarities they had and learn to cope with the differences. In more than one instance Tia would benefit from Tarama’s skill with school work by having her twin pose as her for a test or some other activity. You can’t have a twin story without a switching places plot. I think it is the law or something. It is the natural thing that most people think of when they see twins is whether they have ever changed places. One subtle thing is the close friends of the pair could easily tell them apart. There must be a fashion sense gene though since even before they met they shared the same eclectic, funky taste in clothing. It was great for the girls since they instantly doubled their wardrobe. One of the more interesting themes in the first episode is how the inclusion of Tia affected Tarmar’s already established circle of friends. Tamara’s best friend prior to the appearance of Tia was Sarah played by a very young Brittany Murphy. She may be fairly well known for movies now but she appeared in several sit-coms at the start of her career. For their birthday Ray offers to drive Tia, Tamara and Sarah to Chicago to be pampered in a hotel suite. Of course since they were young teens Lisa would go along as a chaperone but she would stay in the adjacent room. Tia and Tamara were still into the novelty of being twins and want to do everything together frequently leaving Sarah out of things. Sarah resents this and an argument occurs. It takes some subtle pushing by Ray and Lisa to get the girls to be friends again. This added a comic twist on a situation that is extremely important to this age group; fitting in.
This is a different variation on the blended family concept. There were no romantic feelings between Lisa and Ray. At the start they could barely stand each other. Lisa needed a place to stay and both she and Ray felt it necessary for the twins to get to know each other better. This lack of love interest between the parents opened up the potential for each of the parents to experiment with dating; usually with disastrous results. The may have different styles of parenting but they tried to show a united front to the girls. In one episode a topic important to the parents watching was use. Lisa was appalled by the lyrics of a rap song that the girls liked and told them they could not go to the concert. Of course the girls sneak out and get in trouble only to be saved by Lisa and Ray.
The main thing that makes this show work so well is the cast. The Mowry sisters are multitalented and extremely personable. They are naturals for family style entertainment and later went on to the Disney films about twin witches. Reid was best known for classic shows like ‘WKRP in Cincinnati’. He is simply perfect as the uptight but loving Ray. Harry basically plays the same character that she has built her career on. She is always fun to watch.
This series is a gentle brand of comedy that you can watch with your kids. There are some dated references. After all this season is now fourteen years old, but the humor holds up well. CBS Paramount has a fantastic collection of television series of all genres and thankfully they are bringing them out to DVD so we all can enjoy them.